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I wanted to share a story about a problem with a bank (this is a rant and as such is not entirely logical but it feels good to get it off my chest).

2 years ago I received a UMB "gift card" for years of service from my place of employment. I almost immediately misplaced the card and rediscovered it earlier today.

Upon discovery, I said, "Yay - $75.00," and called to activate it. After waiting, navigating menus and speaking to someone who refused to spell my name correctly, I eventually learned that the value of the gift card (which I had never activated and still could not use) had been reduced to $30.00 due to inactivity fees.

"What the hell," I asked "is an inactivity fee?"

The person on the other end explained the math (15 months of inactivity x $3.00 per month) had been subtracted from my "gift" because I was not using it during the time I had not activated it and did not know I had it.

I thanked the gentleman on the other end of the line for the math lesson, but asked for an explanation of why the fee existed. He could not answer and eventually passed me on to his supervisor at a call center in Iowa.

The supervisor helpfully explained the math again, but when asked why this policy existed all she could say was it was part o the terms and conditions and there was nothing she could do.  I asked who got the money - her business or my employer. She said "the bank" keeps the money. I asked, you mean "your bank - UMB bank?" and she said yes. I asked if she could explain why a fee was being collected for no activity on my part or the part of the bank. She could not explain it. I suggested that since this was my money and I let them keep it and use it for their various bank purposes, they should actually owe me interest, not the other way around. I asked why the policy existed and she said she could not explain it, did not agree with it (and would restore the value of my card of she could) but there was nothing to be done.

Well, there's always something to be done. In my case, I called my friend in Human Resources, told him about the experience (and no, I'm not the only one this has ever happened to) and suggested we find someone else to partner with in the future other than UMB bank. It may not make a difference in the long run, but it made me feel better.

So yes, on the one hand I have $30.00 left that I didn't know I had until earlier today. I certainly understand the perspective that I should be happy, use the card to go by dinner and let it go.

On the other hand, inactivity fees, in my opinion, seem to be an unethical business practice.  Now that I know UMB engages in this behavior, they will not get my business in the future.

So why waste your time with a story about $45.00 in fees?

As we look to leaders like Elizabeth Warren who fights these kind of practices, I think it would be helpful to make a list of these micro-practices that are designed to suck people dry one small fee at a time.

So, I will start the list with inactivity fees by UMB bank.

Anyone else have stories to share?

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Comment Preferences

  •  It wasn't that long ago that some gift cards (7+ / 0-)

    had expiration dates. Thankfully, I think that practice has been stopped.

    "let's talk about that" uid 92953

    by VClib on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 10:56:32 AM PDT

  •  Whatever happened to U.S. savings bonds as a gift? (5+ / 0-)

    Apparently they stopped selling the paper ones entirely in 2012.

    The "modern" way now seems to be to create an online account with the U.S. Treasury directly and load it up with Treasury instruments to your liking.

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

    by lotlizard on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 11:12:16 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, and the online system gives me the creeps. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lotlizard, cai, mint julep, Aunt Pat

      Bought a bond for $10K a few years back, when interest rates were still above 2%. Never got as much as an e-mail confirmation of the purchase.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 11:14:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't get me started on the savings bond.... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lotlizard, cai, mint julep, Bob Love, Aunt Pat

      Not only is it now paperless, but you can only buy face value.  I used to buy $50 face value for $25 for nephew's birthdays and Christmas.  When I read that I could only purchase a $50 bond for $50.....  

      What's even worse on the way that the bonds are sold is that the receiving party, should it be a gift, must also have an account set up with the US Treasury and if they happen to be minors, the parents must also have an account.  Then each party needs to know specific information on each other in order to give as gift.  Now, I give their parents a split in cash.

    •  I like paperless and am now more likely to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lotlizard

      ...purchase bonds. I still have some paper bonds that my grandparents bought for me, but I thought they did not sell them any longer. Just like bearer bonds pretty much exists only in the movies.

      I say that I still have them but the truth is I don't know where they are. I'm hoping my parents have kept them for me. So being able to have an online account works for me and I would imagine most people comfortable with online banking.

      The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

      by sebastianguy99 on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 12:20:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lost paper bonds could always be replaced, but, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sebastianguy99, Aunt Pat, alypsee1

        … as with travellers cheques, someone had to have written down the serial numbers somewhere.

        The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

        by lotlizard on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 12:30:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well I better ask my grandmother then. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aunt Pat

          Then again, I want to  hold on to the fantasy that after 30 years they might have earned a nice bit of interest.

          The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

          by sebastianguy99 on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 01:02:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The original Series E bonds from the 1950s paid (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat

            … something like a fixed 3.50 %?

            Against the background of rising inflation in the 1970s, this ended up being ridiculously low.

            It would be pretty darn good nowadays, in an era where the Federal Reserve is pursuing ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy).

            The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

            by lotlizard on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 01:31:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  You are so right with this post. (7+ / 0-)

    The many rip offs we are subjected to require a tough intervention by a knowledgable political heavy weight like Sen. Warren.  'Inactivity fee', now there is a creative way to grab money from unsuspecting people.  You are doing nothing so the bank gets paid because you did nothing, a truely sweet scam that the Mafia must admire.  This practice  needs legislation to stop it, but then they, the banks, will dream up another way to get $ that they do nothing for, but that is what they do.  If our institutions functioned on our behalf we would deal with this in a timely manner instead of constantly fighting to be given a fair shake in the money market place.  

  •  the whole concept of gift cards (7+ / 0-)

    especially for adults, has got to be one of the stupidest inventions in the history of man.  What exactly is the use case?  For giving to someone when you don't want to handle cash and they don't have a bank account to easily handle a check?  Presumably since this was your employer, they had some other established mechanism for transferring money to you on a regular basis that wasn't a gift card.  So you'd spend it instead of saving it?  As if you didn't have $75 of normal living expenses such as food and gas that you could run it down on.

    I mean I don't like store-specific gift cards either, but at least there you are encouraging someone to shop at a presumably frivolous store that they might not otherwise want to waste money at.

  •  What state are you in? (7+ / 0-)

    Many states impose their own restrictions on inactivity fees for gift cards.

    http://consumersunion.org/...

  •  Let's make a list (5+ / 0-)

    I really do think we should actually make a list of how specific banks use obscure fees and unethical practices to harm average people.

    Maybe such a list exists out there somewhere already (I will do some googling), but I would love to heart some real life examples from my Kolleagues (Kos colleagues).

  •  I remember a story a few years ago where a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dfarrah, Bob Love

    store actually did put some of the money back on a store gift card -- but that was because the recipient was something like six or seven years old, and was upset and heartbroken by the fees associated with not using the card fast.

    That's why I prefer gift certificates to gift cards.  You'll never show up with a piece of paper with a dollar amount on it and have them go, "Sorry, this gift certificate has lost half its value in six months."

    I have had a company honor gift cards months or years later with no fees -- but that's a small local company.  They actually have to look you in the eye, and appreciate your business.

    Big banks don't care and don't have to care.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 11:33:28 AM PDT

  •  The worst is the SNAP or other benefits loaded (8+ / 0-)

    onto cards which the banks take a cut of.  

    Poverty is a resource to make the rich richer.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 11:34:55 AM PDT

  •  BFS & BFH (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mint julep, dfarrah

    big freakin satellite: return shipping charge. >$20

    I argued. Argued this is the cost of doing biz. Yeah, they had to ship me the box but I had to go through the labor of disconnecting & collecting equip & reading the fold-outs on how their stuff needs to be returned, "safely." My LABOR.

    Most people shut-up & just pay the charge. I know the score.

    Oops, we know the (some) score(s). ;)

    The burden of bidness fee's are being placed more & more on every consumer.. in every $@%$! industry.

    Read. Every. Bill.

    Fight for every "inactive" penny.

    BFH: big freakin hosptial

    Thought I had paid off my billing. Got another hard to read bill on another $20 charge. After some more arguing found out it was what they charged medicare for me to be seen in a clinic room. Nothing came of the appt. It was a useless waste of time. So this charge for being in "the room" after the (over) billing was done - had me. I said to the billing dept. the next time I go to the hospital for an appt I'm going to charge them MY TIME & send them an invoice. How does that sound... no answer. This one charge, of course, couldn't get out of...

    ~ $20 karma = it is true, balance! haha..

    We need basic income just to manage or mismange our lives w/ these companies who play these scams on us every chance they get. Or they can quit the scams & lower the cost of the same shitty services we have partly built the last 20 years...

    •  Same thing with self-checkouts. (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gfv6800, sillycarrot, cai, nchristine, 6ZONite, kurt

      I don't work for these gd grocery stores.  If I have to check out groceries, then I should get a discount on what I bought for saving the store labor.

      And then there are bank fees on accounts.  My bank has been stealing from my account for years.  Now, it's next to nothing.  It's just pathetic.

      Then you hear landlords are going to charge the renters for repairs when things break down.  What is the point of renting if you have to do all of the maintenance?

      People simply go along with this.

      The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

      by dfarrah on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 12:10:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re: landlords/ladies: check your state laws (4+ / 0-)

        it's illegal for them to do this in many states -- even if they put it on the lease, and you sign it.  

        If I understand my reading at Naked Capitalism correctly, it's mostly big companies trying to get away with that crap -- the ones who bought single family homes during the housing crash to rent, and securitize the income stream.  (Yes, it's the new sub-prime mortgage securitization, only it relies on rents.  What could possibly go wrong?)

        As for why rent, lemme see... can't afford to buy, don't want to get stuck with a house you can't sell if you have to move (job, fracking, pipeline break), don't want to get fraudulently foreclosed upon, no actual chain of title due to MERS...

        © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

        by cai on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 01:20:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, I am buying (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cai, sillycarrot

          my home.

          I just feel bad for renters.

          The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

          by dfarrah on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 01:34:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Oh Oh OOH.. (0+ / 0-)

          Rental contractors w/ the state contracts for low-income renters of private properties... does that even sound right?

          If I own properties these land, rental whomever private contractors w/ state affiliations approach me to "manage" my properties for a little fee's.

          disclosure: i don't own shit.. other than woozie 'n vehicle. & even lucky at that...

          But this scam happened to a low-income friend & their family.

          The state sub-contracted rental prop. manager wouldn't fix the structure of the building (leaky roof) & tried to stick the cost to the renters, my friend.

          Another quasi pub/priv screw job...?

        •  I'd love to just rent... (0+ / 0-)

          Cannot make it through the app without getting humiliated.. banks just laugh.. especially when the medical flag warning scrolls across my profile.. over the danger credit warnings pop-ups shutting down their PC's..

          Ya.. there are laws & 800's to call.. but who has the time to fight the bureaucrazy while 90% humidity w/ showers.

          There are so many damn catch 22's it should be written in scientific notation.

          ;P

      •  Not us! But some for sure. & it keeps goin (0+ / 0-)

        This particular grocery has about the same security as a bank. No shit.

        Steal trillions. Sure, have some more. Swipe by mistake or on purpose toothpaste... SWAT!

        Intalled mic's at the checkout counter too?

        They have camera's on every damn terminal. All this dough spent on tech for a grocery store... when most people just pay with plastic this age..

        Ya know.. the operations costs just skyrocketed with this unneccesary tech? Seems so?

        & then the "automated" checkout crap. I agree. I use it & whine everytime I do becuase I break the stupid thing. In a way it is good then the person "servicing" the assembly of products into bags has to service dumb me. I create jobs?

        I'm such a troublemaker... Then I point out the evils of this whole enterprise & I'm done with my grocery mission in a impossible smile.

        Oh. But I know there is a whole niche market out there that provide jobs for these things & somehow... it is just a grocery store.

        muuhhhaaaahhaaaaahaa - i need to get a better life... full automation?

  •  Banks charge us for keeping our money. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai, Bluefin

    Inactivity Fees are just more legalized theft.

    The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

    by sebastianguy99 on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 12:22:27 PM PDT

  •  Consumer Finance agency addressing this (4+ / 0-)

    and agrees with you that these fees are evil and should be illegal. You can get in touch with them and file a complaint via http://www.consumerfinance.gov/.... Even if they can't get your money back, it helps them build a case file to help deal with the bigger issue.

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